Thursday, January 7, 2016

Are You Smarter than a Bullfrog?

Are You Smarter than a Bullfrog?

I’ve had so many ideas as just what this piece is about.  Everyone seems to agree it is allegory, but about what?  The reader will decide for themselves.  In a few weeks I will post an explanation of what I meant…but that’s not to dissuade you from thinking otherwise.  It is what you make of it.

I’m told that placing a frog into a pot of cold water, and gradually turning up the heat causes the frog to be unaware of what’s happening to it.  Eventually, the water boils and the frog dies….never knowing it was being slowly killed.  Had that frog been suddenly tossed into boiling water, it surely would have made an attempt to escape the pot. Gradually conditioning the frog made it much easier to do him in.

PART 1  A safe place
So the alpha ruler of the forest came upon the society of frogs at waters edge.  “Frogs, he said.” It isn’t safe here in the swamp.  There are snakes and alligators. They’re dangerous to frogs. Come with my friends to a place where you’ll be safe. We can take care of you.  But we’ll have to leave the tadpoles behind….they need the swamp waters for now.  They’ll join us as they grow into frogs.”  So the frogs decided that indeed they would like to be safe, and they went with the leader. The leaders declared that while frogs should be free, the preservation of order must be maintained, certain restrictions needed to be imposed.  While the leader assured them he would never become a dictator, in order to maintain a secure and civilized society, it would be illegal for frogs to take any overt action that might jeapordize order.
A few of the frogs were uncomfortable, but most understood that it was all being done to keep them safe.

The ruler of the forest called the frogs together.  “The alligators and snakes in the swamp pose an imminent threat to us.  So I’ve decided we need to poison the swamp.  There’s a company that helped me achieve my leadership position, and they coincidentally make just the kind of poison we need.  And I’ve been assured that the poison is selective, and won’t harm the tadpoles,” said the leader.  And most of the frogs nodded.

A few of the frogs expressed concern that this was not a good thing, but the majority said, “ It must be done.  It will keep us safe.”
A small number of dissenters kept speaking out.  So the leader decided that he must put an end to dissent.  “To show how democratic a leader I am, I will take those who oppose my ideas and reeducate them. Having moved from the swamp to the forest, there is not as much water.  But I am preparing a nice refreshing spa for you, even though you have questioned my decision.  I welcome dissent.”  Well this show of democracy impressed even the naysayers, and they gleefully stepped into the cool clean water in the spa.  “ A supporter of mine,” said the leader, “ has invented a device which will keep the temperature of the water at a comfortable level.  You will be first to benefit from this scientific advance.”  Even those in the spa wondered if they had misjudged the leader.  And those who simply watched felt gratitude towards his generosity.  And the device was turned on.  At the same time, in the swamp, the poison was being distributed.  And most frogs felt safe.

A few days later the frogs assembled again.  Those in the spa seemed in a daze. The soothing effects of the now warm water were manifesting themselves.  But other frogs were beginning to worry.  Alligators and snakes, fleeing from the poisoned swamp, had been spotted in the forest, far from the swamp.  “ It’s only a matter of time,” said one of the frogs, “that one of those snakes or alligators is going to eat a frog.”  The leader looked troubled.  “ I think what we need to do to prevent such a catastrophe is to build a wall at the edge of the swamp.  I know a company that can do this.  They are among those who made me the leader.  It will be expensive, and we will all have to pay for it.  But it will keep us safe.  Regrettably there might be some shortages for other things you frogs like.  Food, for instance.  We will have to scrimp a little in order to pay for the wall.”   But you know it’s for the overall good.
Some of the frogs were doubtful, but most understood that sacrifices were necessary in order to be protected. Most frogs felt the leader was taking them in the right direction, and were willing to sacrifice.  But a growing number was becoming skeptical.  Whenever they spoke out, though, the majority drowned them out.  And many more frogs were being treated to the spa.

So, as time went on, the wall was finally completed.  It had proven to be much more expensive than originally projected.  And since it could not go all around the swamp, a few snakes and alligators had been able to enter the forest around the wall.  There had been a few fatal incursions, but the leader assured them that without the wall, there would have been many more.

At the next meeting, it was announced that those in the spa had mysteriously passed away.  One of those in the audience questioned whether the warming device had caused the deaths.  “ No,” the leader said, “ those unfortunate frogs simply died a natural death.  And it was painless.  No, the device maker was not responsible.  And to prove it, I am passing a law prohibiting anyone from trying to hold the manufacturer responsible for this tragedy.”  Some of the frogs were not convinced.  “ Why is it that all who perished were those who questioned your leadership?”  A number of other frogs began to echo that thought.  “ Coincidence.  Surely there can be no suspicion that your leader would put frogs in harms way.”  The leader looked a little frightened.  The crowd dispersed. Many more were now grumbling and questioning the leader.

In a few more days, the forest had been overrun with alligators and snakes.  Frogs were being consumed in frightening numbers.  And at the next convening, one of the frogs called for a boycott of this forest society.  “ It is unnatural for frogs to live in the forest,” said the frog.  “The leader has not only failed to protect us, he has put us in great danger.  The only ones safe are he and his associates and those who made the spa device and the poison, and those who erected the swamp wall.  I say let’s abandon this folly and return to the swamp.  A great ovation burst forth.  The forest leader and his associates escaped off into the woods, and the frogs began a journey back to the swamp…around the wall, over the wall, and in cracks in the wall caused by inferior construction.  And they reached the edge of the swamp.  The water was a greenish yellow.  The remaining snakes and alligators were floating dead in the toxic soup.  So were the raccoons, fish, and all the other indigenous  wildlife. . There were no more lily pads.  No insects to eat.    And the next generation, the tadpoles, all gone. They had not been immune after all.  There was nothing.  The frogs had traded their natural lifestyle, along with all it’s risks, for something which though it promised security, ended their civilization.  And the snakes and alligators back in the forest feasted on the remains of those frogs that had perished in the spa.  And when they were done, they sought out new prey.  One of the last surviving frogs said: “ I wish we had listened when a few warned what was happening.”  But it was too late.

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